Penalties decide semifinal
Celtic earned a week off and Harlequins lived to fight another day in the Hamersley Cup senior rugby semifinals on Saturday.
Celtic went straight through to the final with a gritty 31-24 win against Mackenzie in Fairlie, while Harlequins scrambled past Waimate 9-5 at Manchester Park in the sudden death semifinal.
The result means Waimate's season came to an end while Harlequins will travel to Fairlie to face Mackenzie for the second spot in the final.
Waimate started well after Kurt Rooney made a half break and threw a skip pass to Jarred Matthews who fed Miles Medlicott on the loop and after a quick ruck saw Waimate run the blind with Medlicott involved again as he passed to winger Matt Hayman who stretched out to place the ball over the line in the corner for a 5 -0 lead after only six minutes.
Waimate's goalkicker, Theo Davidson, missed the conversion but had a chance five minutes later to add a penalty, but contrary to the previous match when he kicked seven from seven, he was unsuccessful from about 40m out.
Harlequins then had their turn on attack but in a first half dominated by basic handling mistakes they knocked the ball on just on the Waimate try line.
Scott Norton eventually landed a penalty to close the gap to two points.
Davidson missed another penalty attempt that was well within range.
Harlequins had two more try-scoring opportunities in the final 15 minutes of the first half but dropped the crucial last pass.
The second half started without Norton who suffered a concussion in the first 40 minutes.
Zane Sanders moved into the pivot role, but with halfback Jordan Hooke proving his value and giving great service, Sanders' role was relatively easy as Harlequins took it straight to Waimate and were rewarded after three minutes with a penalty to Paula Fifita to take the lead 6 -5.
Waimate came back up the field and a series of attacks and drives.
With Davidson seemingly down on confidence they turned down shots at goal but could not breach the Harlequins' line.
Harlequins No 8 Teki Vekune had a strong match with support from lock Tuieta Tauelangi and veteran Craig Miller. Harlequins made good forward momentum leading to a penalty which Fifita kicked to stretch the lead to 9-5.
Harlequins tried to maintain field position, but again handling would undo a lot of good work.
Fifita missed another penalty chance and then Waimate went on full attack during the last 7 minutes as they tried to score a second try to grab the win and a series of penalties had them attacking the Harlequins line but the visitors' defence held firm to the final whistle.
In Fairlie, Mackenzie led for most of the game through the boot of fullback George Williams who had an outstanding day and kicked eight from eight.
Both forward packs had big games and in the end it was a rolling maul from a lineout, possibly the one area that Celtic dominated, that allowed them to score the winning try (their third) with five minutes to play and break the 24-24 deadlock.
Celtic first-five Hamish Strachan controlled play well as he drove his forwards around the park, regularly putting the ball into the corners to give his forwards a chance to drive or use their rolling maul while stand-in No 10 for Mackenzie Walter Jacobs did everything asked of him.
In the forwards Mackenzie hooker Johnny Andrews led the way, but the whole pack competed well around the park.
For Celtic it was the experience of Kali Latu, Tom Fleming and Matt Fetu who led their pack and were prevalent in the lineouts and rolling mauls, while in the backs, Jarrad Mannix continued his ever improving skills, kicking the final conversion from the sideline as Celtic became the only team to have beaten Mackenzie at home this season.
In the bottom four playoffs, Pleasant Point got back on a winning path beating Temuka 37-21 to go straight through to the final while Old Boys again defeated Geraldine by 31-19 to keep their season alive.
The Timaru Herald